Pub and restaurant bosses from across the north-east have said the new Covid-19 hospitality curfew is a “big blow” for businesses.
The new restriction was introduced across Scotland at the weekend and hospitality firms in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have told of the impact it has had on takings.
Officials from Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils as well as police were out on patrol on Friday and Saturday to make sure premises were abiding by the new rules, which were brought in to battle the spread of coronavirus.
Police said the “vast majority” of late-night revellers followed the rules on Friday evening and they thanked people for doing so.
Stuart Mcphee, director of Siberia and chairman of Aberdeen Hospitality Together, said people drinking in the bar were “understanding” with their staff and the curfew.
However, he said the curfew had caused a “significant downturn” and that they would just have to “muddle through” the difficult time.
Businesses in the hospitality sector in Aberdeen battled on through a national and local lockdown before being hit with the restriction in opening hours.
Stuart said “In our experience, it has been a challenge. It’s been difficult for most businesses.
“We’re about 28% down on last week in terms of Friday and Saturday. Obviously, we were operating at a reduced capacity then as well, compared to pre-covid it’s probably about 50% down on pre-covid levels.
“It’s a significant downturn, it’s a big blow, but we’ll just have to muddle through.
“It’s as sustainable as we can make it, it’s not something that is going to change any time soon.
“We’re just taking it one day at a time, it’s all we can do for the moment.”
He said that customers had all been complying with the new rules. He added: “The general level of compliance has been high. They’ve been quite understanding to our staff.”
Andy Morrison, general manager at Glentanar Bar, said they were preparing to face failing to make any profit in 2020.
He said the bar had been putting safety above takings although they want to make sure the pub has a future beyond the pandemic.
Andy said: “It’s been challenging, I think it’ll take a few weeks for people to get used to the new rules. It’s all for the greater good.
“We went from 150 capacity to 34, it’s cut out 80% of our trade, it’s not great.
“We were quite lucky, as we’ve only been open since last week, we really wanted to take it seriously and we’ve got a lot of controls in place, we want to make everyone feel comfortable. We’re monitoring what state people are when they come in, and what state they are when they go out.
“We’re not expecting to make any profit for the next year, we just want to stay open. We’re putting safety before profit.
“Music is a huge thing, it would be nice to have some background music.”
John Burgess, who runs the Paddock Bar in Portlethen, said the curfew is not too big an issue for them as the pub is usually empty by 10pm in any case.
He said: “The rule of six is having a bigger impact than the curfew. Our public bar has been quite quiet but with the lounge and restaurant we get a lot of families in and they leave before 10pm anyway.
“We are probably down 10% to 15% and the last month for us hasn’t been great with the weather and the schools being back too.”
During the first night of the curfew on Friday, there appeared to be more cars on the streets than people when the bars closed up at 10pm.
The city centre streets were considerably quieter, with smaller groups of people walking out of bars and restaurants at the new closing time.
Moonfish Cafe owner Brian McLeish disagrees with the rule and does not want to be hastening diners away into the street.
Brian said: “It is not ideal and we don’t like it.
“Our last booking is just after 8pm and we try and feed everyone.
“I don’t agree with shutting at 10pm and just pushing people to the buses and taxi rank.”
Laura Rudzite, from Union Street-based Amarone, said they have had to adjust with their latest available booking now being shortly before 9pm.
She said reservations were “slightly down” but feels their location may be a factor for them being “busy” with diners.
Laura said: “We’ve had no problems and everyone has been really understanding with the rules.
“It has been quite busy recently but I think we are lucky because we are in the city centre. We were very busy on Saturday night although the number of bookings are slightly down.”
She said that all bars and restaurants must close at 10pm from Friday to help prevent the risk of the coronavirus pandemic spreading.
The decision was made to “reduce the amount of time people are able to spend in licensed premises”.
Police said most people had behaved on the first night of the curfew.
Police Scotland’s deputy chief constable Will Kerr said: “It was a generally good night and the vast majority of people complied with regulations and thank you for that.”